Despite all the doom-and-gloom analysis surrounding Microsoft’s Windows 10 and its slow adoption by consumers, there’s at least one bright spot for the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant. Since the launch of Windows 10, Cortana has served nearly six billion voice search queries, indicating that those who do upgrade are finding Microsoft’s virtual assistant quite useful.
Previously, Cortana was only available primarily to users of Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, although the company did offer Cortana apps for both Android and iOS. According to Microsoft’s Lynne Kjolso, the addition of Windows 10 resulted in a 60 percent year-over-year increase in Cortana usage.
This news is also of interest to Apple, which will debut Siri for the first time on the desktop when MacOS Sierra launches in the fall. While some may have seen it as one of those features that have a definite cool factor — but likely limited practical real-world use — Microsoft’s success with Cortana on the desktop makes it seem like users are ready, and perhaps have been, for virtual assistants on the desktop.
Kjolso was speaking to attendees at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle, and atlked in depth on what the transition from traditional text search to voice-based searching might mean for the industry at large. “That shift from typing in a query to a voice query and natural language is happening, I think, much faster than we anticipated,” she told attendees.
Microsoft is also using its success with Cortana to push forward something that the company refers to as “conversation as a platform,” which Kjolso says is a reference to how to “get stuff done” through the combination of Cortana and bots.
One example given — and previously demoed by Microsoft at its Build conference — was active listening by Cortana during a Skype conversation. If the conversation turns to, say, a trip to Ireland, Cortana could start looking for flights during the times you talk about in the conversation, then deliver results to you without you having to directly ask for them.
“If we can power those messaging conversations with the machine learning and intelligence of Cortana, plus bots, that creates a really rich, fast, modern experience of getting stuff done through the power of search, and we feel that’s where the experience is heading,” Kjolso said. “That’s a space that we intend to lead in.”